Arts

French apple tart
If you’re tired of the typical circular pie shape (ugh! circles!), this apple tart is a guaranteed crowd-pleasing fall dessert. Photo: Zofka Svec/Fulcrum
Reading Time: 5 minutes

A sophisticated twist on a familiar fall favourite

Apple pie is great, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re like me and you’re tired of the typical circular pie shape (ugh! circles!), this apple tart is a guaranteed crowd-pleasing fall dessert. The apple flavours are familiar enough, but the toffee compote adds a caramelized warmth to an otherwise plain flavour profile. 

There are a lot of steps here. Read the entire recipe, preferably a couple of times over, before you begin. 

Ingredients

For the rough-puff pastry: 

3 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz / 340g), very chilled

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (16 oz / 455g), plus more for dusting

2 tablespoons demerara brown sugar (0.9 oz / 25g)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (0.16 oz / 5g)

¾ cup ice water

For the apple toffee compote:

3 medium Pink Lady or any sweet-tart, firm baking apples, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (1.8 oz / 50g) 

1/2 cup apple cider (4 oz / 125g)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 oz / 85g)

For the apples: 

5 medium Pink Lady or any sweet-tart, firm baking apples, unpeeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon cinnamon (or sweet spice mix of your choice)

2 tablespoons apple cider

1 tablespoon lemon juice (freshly squeezed if possible)

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Finishing touches:

1 beaten egg

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons apple cider 

Materials:

Large bowl

Cheese grater

Small saucepan

Spatula

Very sharp knife

Potato masher

Pastry brush

  1. Make the rough-puff pastry

Important to note: this is a double recipe: you only need half for the apple tart. The pastry is so labour-intensive that it’s not worth it to make only half. Just freeze the other half and use it for anything else — palmier cookies, flaky biscuits, another tart, or pie. Also important: everything needs to be kept as cold as possible. Put the butter, the bowl, and the utensils in the freezer for about an hour before you begin the process. This makes the pastry as flaky as possible — the freezing obsession depends on how flaky you want the pastry. Like, don’t obsess over it (I say as I obsess over it). I make the pastry dough the night before and let it chill overnight. You can certainly make it same-day — to each their own — but then it’ll be an all-day endeavour. The pastry requires considerable focus but the apples and the tart assembly don’t, so plan your time accordingly.

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Mix well. 
  2. Take your butter out of the freezer. Divide it in half lengthwise. Put one half back in the freezer.
  3. Take the other half and your chilled cheese grater. Grate the butter into the flour. With your hands, give it a couple of tosses so all the shreds are fully coated. Give the mixture a gentle massage. 
  4. Take the other half out of the freezer. Cut it lengthwise enough times to make it a little 2cm by 2cm stick. Begin slicing very thin slices. 
  5. Add the slices into the flour and butter mixture. Coat the slices — but DO NOT massage! The slices should remain intact. 
  6. Put the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to cool off from the heat of your hands. At the same time, put some cold water in the freezer.
  7. Once your mixture has chilled enough, take your ice water and add it little by little. Mix it in gently with your hands. I find a flip-and-press process works best. Add a little water, mix it around, flip the dough over, and press it down. 
  8. The dough is done when it’s barely holding together. It’ll be cracked and barely moist. You might see some extra flour – just take the dough that’s holding together out of the bowl and add the water to this extra flour. You may not use all the water, you may use a bit more. Pay attention to how the dough looks, not the exact measurements. Cover with cling wrap and let it chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.
  9. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead and press it down gently into a loose flat-topped rectangle. Hit it with a rolling pin. Just go to town on it. Roll it into a larger rectangle, until it’s about a ½ inch thick and three times longer than the original rectangle. It should be longer than it is wide. The dough will have a marbled appearance. This is good! The pockets of separated butter in the dough are what you want. At any point in the process, put the dough in the freezer for a few minutes to keep the butter from melting into the dough.
  10. Like a letter, fold in both ends of the dough – the bottom third back into the center and the top third on top of that. The dough is now three layers thick and the same size as the original rectangle. Repeat this process one more time – this is layering the butter and it’s what makes it extra flaky – and roll it out in one direction into the larger rectangle.
  11. Fold the rectangle in thirds again. Cut it in half and wrap each one tightly with cling wrap. Put both in the fridge. Stash one away.

At this point I would go to bed. If you started in the morning, then let’s continue. The dough needs to chill at least two hours before you roll it out again. Keep this in mind.

2.  Make the apple toffee compote

  1. Get your apples out. Peel them and chop them into little diced pieces. 
  2. Put the sugar and butter in a cold saucepan. Turn the saucepan on to medium heat and stir to combine.
  3. When the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat a bit and add the apples and apple cider. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until the apples are soft and slightly translucent.
  4. Take off heat and the compote cools a bit. The apple compote shouldn’t be very liquidy — if it is, drain some of the liquid. Take your potato masher and mash it until it forms a thick uniform mixture. 
  5. Chill. This needs to be completely chilled before assembling the tart, so it’ll take a couple of hours.

3. Prepare the apples

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, apple cider, sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Thoroughly wash your apples. We’re leaving the skin on for this, so they need to be clean. Cut the tops and bottoms off the apple and cut around the core so you get four apple lobes. 
  3. Take these lobes and slice them very thinly with a very sharp knife. Don’t separate the slices! Keep them in their little packages, all together. Once sliced, place them in the bowl of lemon juice mixture.

4. Assemble the tart

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Take your dough out of the fridge. Give it a couple of whacks with your rolling pin before rolling it out into a ¼ inch thick rectangle. 
  3. Transfer the dough onto a baking sheet. Poke holes in the dough with a fork, leaving an inch-wide border around the edges. 
  4. Using a spatula, spread your apple compote around the middle of the tart, leaving the same border untouched.
  5. Take the apple slices, slightly fan them out and spread them on the tart. Alternate the orientations and the sizes of the apple slices until all of the compote is covered. 
  6. Microwave the butter and apple cider together for 20 seconds or until melted. Using a pastry brush, brush the drizzle over the apples.
  7. Take your beaten egg and paint it around the edges on the exposed pastry. Sprinkle the demerara sugar on the egg-washed border. 
Pre-baked French Apple Tart. Photo: Zofka Svec

5. Bake

  1. Finally! It’s time! Put your tart in the oven at 425F.
  2. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 350F.
  3. Bake for another 40 minutes, checking on it frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn.

6. Enjoy!

You’ve made it! You can finally enjoy this delicious tart. You’ll soon see that it was worth the effort. Serve with whipped cream and apple ice cream. Tastes best with friends.